Back Pain: Its cost in the suffering of people and productivity at the workplace

Back pain and other types of soreness and pain accounted for 11% of all cases of injury related missed work days in the United States in 2008.

Back pain is known not only for the discomfort that it causes to the individual who is suffering, but it is also one of the main causes of lost productivity at the workplace. Acute back pain and chronic back pain alike is one of the biggest reasons for lost productivity at work and days where people called in sick. There are times in acute and chronic back pain cases alike where people's mobility is diminished to the point where they can't do their jobs safely, or where the pain level is just too high for the person to be able to do the job with a clear mind. Often staying at home and lying on a couch or in bed does nothing to help the patient with their back pain or lower back pain, but at the same time puts people in a position where they are just unable to do their job. It is hard for people who have never had severe back pain to understand the toll that back pain can take in a person's spirit, their confidence, and the ability to do the things that they were once able to do.

A published report by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that joint pain and back pain accounted for over one million missed work days in 2008. This stat was slightly down from the 1.1 million pain related work days that missed the previous year. Now we know that you only get so many vacation or sick days a year, and most people would rather be able to save them for trips when they have the time available. Back pain isn't the only reason for missed work days due to soreness and pain, but it is one of the biggest offenders. Back pain has long been suspected as being one of the most common reasons for people being off the job due non-disciplinary reasons. The bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed this in a report titled, "Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away from Work". This report included the labor force from the private sector alone.

Here are some interesting findings from this publication telling us more about back pain and its association with lost workplace productivity:
  • Sprain and strain injuries accounted for nearly 40% of all missed work cases due to back pain. Sprains involve the stretching or tearing of a ligament or a joint capsule. Sprains may occur due to chronic overuse of joints that are repeatedly challenged, due to work requirements. Sprains may also occur due to an accident at work. A strain a stretching or tearing of the muscle and tendon structure. The muscles are Tendons are the tough bands of connective tissue that connect the muscle to the bone. Though sprains are often associated with accidents or sports injuries, they may also occur due to repetitive stress. Tendinitis is a common musculo-tendinous injury related to repetitive stress at work.
  • A majority of the sprain and strain type work injuries that resulted in lost hours of work productivity came from the following occupations: (retail salespersons, construction laborers, nursing aids, truck drivers, and other laborers). Most of these occupations involved relatively heavy lifting.
  • Back pain and other types of injuries related to soreness and pain accounted for 11 percentage of all the days of work missed due to any kind of illness.